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How learning repositories enable personalized instruction

Access to learning repositories is helping educators locate more impactful content for students

learning-repository-instructionThe emergence of open educational resources, coupled with students’ desire for more personalized learning, has fueled a need for content repositories that enable teachers, students, and parents to locate effective learning resources and educational content quickly.

Now, the state of Illinois is developing efforts to help teachers and students leverage tagged educational content to make learning more customized, and effective, for students. The Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE) will help educators use data and other tools to connect students with the learning resources and instructional content best suited to their needs.

State educators can use student data to locate tagged educational resources and learning materials that suit each student’s needs, moving away from a “one size fits all” mindset.

(Next: How a learning repository equals individualized learning for students)

State leaders are encouraging staff to leverage open resources from places such as the OER Commons, which map their resources according to the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) specifications.

LRMI, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to develop a standard metadata framework that educational publishers and educators can use to tag instructional materials found online.

“We envision using ISLE to build dynamic learning maps with prepopulated learning resources,” said Tim Farquer, superintendent of the Williamsfield Schools and one of the districts involved in ISLE’s creation. “When those learning maps are set up and tied to the Common Core State Standards and/or the Next Generation Science Standards, then we should easily be able to attach the quality resources that we’re already stockpiling.”

Farquer said presently, while the ISLE is still in beta, state leaders and educators are making efforts to “use resources from repositories and organizations that have shown a commitment to publishing according to the LRMI.”

Resources are available to teachers, students, and parents. For instance, students might need help with Common Core math assignments after finding textbooks inadequate for a specific problem. Students use the ISLE and locate resources, with the help of teachers, to assist them with their lesson. At home, parents can use the ISLE to locate teacher-vetted resources, or other quality resources they find on their own, to help their children with homework.

In addition to helping students with learning, the ISLE also gives students researching and tagging skills for later use.

“We want our kids to argue based on valid and reliable evidence,” Farquer said. “They should be able to use technological tools to find quality information quickly. We’re changing into a dynamic learning environment that gives kids the ability to search and find the information they seek, and we hope we can help families and students develop better learning pathways that lead to real, viable learning opportunities. Then school becomes purposeful.”

While many people are aware of the LRMI, said LRMI Project Manager Dave Gladney, they aren’t completely familiar with it and don’t realize just how impactful it could be if content providers and educational publishers start tagging their content to a common set of metadata properties.

“If all states are looking for these properties, then they start asking their content providers for it, and everything will be more interoperable and easier to find,” Gladney said.

“Outreach to states and districts is something we’re working on currently—that’s a big push, to build awareness,” he said. “The need for this has really exploded in the past couple years.”

Recently, the LRMI sought input from education professionals regarding if and how they are using education metadata. Those results will be available in March.

“Having a publishing community that agrees upon a standard for metadata and learning resources, and having the consumers of that data agree as well, then getting it pushed out and implemented, is going to be huge for better discoverability and being able to do much more with the content,” Gladney said.

Other states are catching on and creating online collections of tagged, searchable learning resources.

The Orange Grove, Florida’s instructional digital repository and an effort of the Florida Distance Learning Consortium, aims to make high-quality learning resources searchable and easily accessible.

The repository is compatible with learning management systems and lets educators search for, share, contribute, and edit educational content.

The time teachers spend locating appropriate and effective resources can become overwhelming.

In Kentucky, the Kentucky Learning Depot aims to help educators quickly locate relevant learning resources using standardized search criteria and vocabulary.

Teachers can locate, contribute, create, and reuse resources found in the online library.

The Depot’s goal is to facilitate sharing and reuse of high-quality instructional resources. Those resources might include interactive simulations, virtual labs, virtual tours, games, and interactive images.

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Laura Ascione

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